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Friday 24 May 2024

New Books Reviewed in May


Is This Mutton's varied selection of books reviewed and published in May 2024

Dear friends.  We're almost at the halfway point of the year (already!) and in the Goodreads Reading Challenge I've read 58 books out of my target of 100.  

I've currently got just 2 books on my NetGalley "shelf" and am having a rest from reviewing upcoming titles. 

I'm completing the series by award winning author Elizabeth Strout, which is very relaxing.  

Sometimes I've taken on too many NetGalley books and blog tours, and find I have to read very fast to complete the reviews, Amazon shares and Goodreads quickly enough.  It gets stressful, when reading should be a pleasure.

Without further ado, this month's selection, which also includes two non-fiction books.

The Unseen Sister by Andy Maslen:  4 stars

The second in the DI Kat Ballantyne series. In separate incidents,  the bodies of two women are found at local stones known as the Three Sisters.  Both have been branded on the stomach.

Kat races against time to solve the crime, finding herself unexpectedly closer to one of the victims than she expected. She receives little help from her boss. 

An intriguing and thought provoking storyline. 

I Hope this Finds You Well by Natalie Sue: 4 stars

Anyone who has worked in the corporate environment will find this familiar.  It's an excoriating dissection of an office environment in which hardly any work gets done while everyone is spying on, or ignoring, each other. 

Jolene is pulled up for writing invisible passive aggressive comments about her co- workers in her emails. An IT glitch means she has access to the whole office's emails and messages. She realises she can use this to her advantage, to keep her job.

We learn Jolene has never recovered from the death of a friend. She has no friends and lives in squalor. Gradually she starts to carve out a better existence and become a loyal team worker.

There are some amusing moments: the Iranian mothers trying to outdo each other, the employee who loses access to the shared drive but doesn't report it. I could done without boss Gregory's peccadillo.

Overall an enjoyable romp with a dark edge.

The Coast Road by Alan Murrin  (4 stars)

A bohemian Irish woman who deserted her family for another man returns to her home town and is ostracised. In Murrin's sensitive hands, Coleen's plight leads her to a friendship with Izzy and ultimately tragedy as they try to get Colleen's children returned to her. The writing is beautiful. 

The book is a stark reminder of life in rural Ireland pre-divorce, when communities would turn against anyone who defied what they perceived as their norms. 

Murder at Land's End by Sally Rigby: 4 stars

The superstitious and very traditional fishing industry is at the centre of Sally Rigby's third Cornish crime mystery. Two women are found dead on the rocks at Land's End, in separate incidents, both carefully placed and with words from a seafaring poem in their mouths.

Penzance CID relies on good old fashioned police work to solve the mystery. No endless jargon, drones or AI here. DS Matt Price is skilful at reading the body language of those being questioned. And since his arrival, the "ice queen " DI Lauren Pengelly, has thawed out sufficiently to go to the pub occasionally and sometimes partake in the banter, I love the team dynamics.

Full of intrigue and twists, this is another Rigby to savour.


You Don't Have to Be Mad to Work Here by Benji Waterhouse   (4 stars)

If you're expecting nothing but light hearted anecdotes, you'll find this book a shock. Yes, there are a few amusing moments, but it's more an expose on the shameful situation facing anyone caring for the mentally ill. Resources have dwindled to such an extent that a man in London who needed a bed urgently had to be sent to Durham for the one bed available.

Another man who had been sectioned went on to murder his mother, because it takes several days to perform a sectioning with the backup required,

Dr Benji starts his career with hope and the desire to improve the lives of his patients . He's shocked when his first consultant actively encourages sending patients away unless they show signs of doing damage to themselves or others. By the time he's a second year psychiatrist, Dr Benji is the most senior doctor because of staff shortages. His own mental health starts to suffer, particularly as he's dealing with the fallout of his parents' volatile relationship during his childhood.

I finished the book with even more respect for those who devote their career to trying to help those in emotional and mental distress.

Sarah Siddons by Jo Willett:  4 stars 

I've often wondered about the captivating woman painted several times by Thomas Gainsborough and others. Now my curiosity is satisfied by this biography of Sarah Siddons, the first "celebrity actress". 

 She grew up as a member of a family troupe of travelling actors, always poor and often hungry, resorting to foraging for turnips to eat. But before she was 30 she had become a superstar, her fees greater than any actor - male or female - had previously achieved.

The book is full of period detail and I really enjoyed Sarah's story.  Success wasn't easy, her first London season was a disaster and she became depressed.  She found success in provincial theatres but suffered from working mother guilt. After four years she was persuaded by RB Sheridan to return to London, and this time triumphed. 

At one point, her tragic performance was so convincing her 8 year old son burst into tears, thinking his mother was dying. Sir Joshua Reynolds designed the gown she wore for her role as Lady Macbeth. 

Her reputation came under attack when she was involved in a dispute with actor William Brereton.  Sarah was criticised for being stingy and money-grabbing. She never really recovered from this episode. At 37 Sarah discovered her unfaithful husband had given her a form of venereal disease. Their eldest son died aged 41, and Sarah came out of retirement briefly to raise money for her son's widow and their children. 


Mary 1 Queen of Sorrows by Alison Weir

Hidden Depths by J H Mann 

Death in Bacton Wood by Ross Greenwood

The Life Sentence by Jackie Kabler

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  1. I really like the review about the book about the psychologist. It’s an interesting take and it’s almost as if you are stepping into the field with them. I’m definitely going to check it out.

    1. Thanks Sabrina. It's a very thought provoking book.

  2. An interesting mix of books.

    Have a great weekend!

    Emily @ Budget Tales Book Blog
    My post:

  3. I'm going to have to check some of these out. I'm always on the lookout for book reviews and recommendations.
    Visiting today from SSPS 313 #26&27


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